November means leaf pickup time in Northeast Ohio, and a number of cities have aggressive programs that produce valuable mulch and prevent leaves from going into landfills.
Elyria has eight leaf vacuums and saves $65,000 to $70,000 a year in landfill costs because of it, said Jim Hutchson, an assistant safety-service director.
Elyria probably saves an additional $30,000 by turning the leaves into compost and mulch for its parks, Hutchson said.
Most of the leaves and yard waste are processed at Elyria`s Central Maintenance Garage on Garden Street by Madden Brothers of Brunswick, which supplies free mulch and compost to the city. Elyria leaf crews also take leaves picked up north of state Route 57 to Willoway Nursery and Traxler`s Nursery, both in Avon.
The city uses prisoners from the Lorain County Jail on its leaf crews and on any given day, two to nine prisoners are raking leaves.
This year, leaves are falling late, but hopefully it won`t be as bad as several years ago when snow plows had to break up frozen piles of leaves so they could be vacuumed, Hutchson said.
In Lorain, the city has five vacuum trucks and picks up leaves in neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of trees, according to Street Department Commissioner Chuck Camera.
The lake effect keeps fall weather mild in Lorain and “it`s always a late leaf season,” he said.
The leaves are taken to Lorain`s maintenance garage at 114 E. 30th St., where they are composted.
“Pandy`s (Garden Center) bought us out this year,” Camera said.
“We`ll sell again in the beginning of May,” Camera said.
Crews in Oberlin truck their leaves to the site of the Wastewater Treatment plant north of East Lorain Street, where they are composted.
“We take in between 300 and 400 tons a year,” Baumann said. “By the end of the third year, they`re pretty well composted.
The compost is made available to Oberlin residents twice a year, Baumann said.
Avon Lake has seven vacuums, but only a few are running now because there isn`t sufficient volume, Service Director Tom Lescher said.
There are a lot of mature trees in Avon Lake, and 16,256 cubic yards of leaves were taken last year to compost piles behind the service garage at 750 Avon Belden Road, he said.
Any Lorain County resident can take compost out of wooden bins set out at the Avon Lake facility for the public, Lescher said.
“I`m told we have people from Cuyahoga County coming to get it,” he added.
Amherst also has leaf vacuums picking up leaves north and south of the railroad tracks on alternating weeks, city officials said.
Allied Waste doesn`t have any vacuums, but it does pick up leaves bagged in biodegradable paper bags in Avon Lake, Sheffield Lake, North Ridgeville, Grafton and LaGrange, said Dave Kidder, marketing and development director.
“We still get a lot of leaves in the landfill,” Kidder said.
Years ago, people used to burn their leaves, but it`s now banned because it is a fire risk and it also hurts the environment, Kidder said.
Some communities such as Avon don`t have any provisions for leaf pickup, and all of the leaves go into the landfill. Avon just started a brush chipping program and hopes to start a leaf vacuum program in the next several years, Mayor Jim Smith said.
“Anybody who has a leaf program will tell you it`s a huge expense,” Smith said.
Hutchson said one of the biggest headaches occurs when people rake leaves onto the street and they clog drainage.
If it rains and freezes, “it can turn a whole intersection into ice,” he said. Oberlin has an ordinance that makes it a misdemeanor to rake leaves into the street, but police have only cited a handful of people through the years.